Xbox Gamepass Ultimate or “Gamepass” is a relatively new platform. While it might be called “Xbox” Gamepass Ultimate, its streaming functions share more in common with Amazon Luna or Google Stadia than a physical console. Read on to find out more about this cutting-edge gaming service.
What Is Gamepass?
Gamepass is a subscription-based service that allows Xbox users to stream various games to their consoles without owning them. It also allows for online services such as multiplayer, much like PS Plus for Playstation. But Gamepass Ultimate is different. The ultimate version, roughly $16 a month, allows mobile streaming.
Specifically, with a strong WIFI connection and Bluetooth controller, mobile devices (tablets, phones, even laptops) can stream games like Battlefield V, Dishonored, or the Wolfenstein franchise. The games can be played with full online connectivity, allowing anyone to whip out their phone and a controller and verse their friends in Battlefront.
Multiplayer Games On Gamepass
Gamepass and platforms like it present something consoles cannot: portability. While Nintendo might have pioneered multiplayer games (Wii Games, DS Download Play, etc.), the goal was always to play together with friends on significant games like COD in the same room. Anyone who has thought about doing that has had to ponder buying a separate console, paying for another online account, and buying another controller. Now, a console and mobile player, or two mobile players, can play online in the same room with minimal hassle. It feels like what the DS and Wii could have been with today’s technology (even surpassing the modern Nintendo Switch). This could technically work on many popular games out now.
On another note, MMO games can expect more players with more ways to play present. Microsoft estimates that Gamepass subscriptions have jumped by 7 million in only a year. This means we can expect more people in matches and perhaps more matches in general. In a world where we are increasingly turning to technology, this means more time to spend with friends in ways in which distance is irrelevant.
Some games are worth playing over others for their gameplay or multiplayer value.
The first game I would recommend anyone play is Battlefront. For those who understand Star Wars lore, it’s essentially co-op and team death matches between good and bad guys throughout Star Wars. A player can join the Separatist Alliance ranks battling the Republic, the Empire versus the Rebellion, and the First Order attacking the Resistance or vice versa for each. Either team in a match can access playable heroes like Kylo Ren or Captain Phasma for the First Order. The map selection is vast, too, including maps centered around Kamino, Tatooine, and more.
The second game I would recommend is technically a few. Gamepass added the “Hitman” saga not too long ago. In this game, the user acts strategically to take down targets. Some are easier than others; other achievements can be acquired by killing targets in specific ways, say by poisoning. Hitman straddles the line between strategy, third-person shooter, brawler, and sniper games. Sadly, Hitman has no actual multiplayer mode.
Lastly, Xbox itself is known for the Halo franchise. It’s a series of games where humans are at war with invading aliens. The games all play well and have a solid multiplayer experience. Lucky for me, many of these are available to play immediately on Gamepass. Now, I can prevent the complete destruction of the Earth by aliens while on a moving train.
Gamepass is a lot of fun, but only when it works. While we all dream of seamless connectivity and streaming games on our phones when we want, it’s not quite there.
One of the first complaints is data usage. It might be obvious, but streaming intense graphic games like Far Cry 5 burns through cellular data. Likewise, weak WIFI (like JetBlue flights) is a no go either. My best advice is to get a strong WIFI connection; if it’s public, using a VPN doesn’t have much effect on FPS.
Personally, I do have unlimited data. While it’s likely a consequence of mobile networks (thanks, AT&T), data usage is a hit or miss. Gamepass can be fun for the car if coverage is entirely uninterrupted.
Another complaint is with the gameplay itself. Generally, it’s pretty good. But, one pet peeve of mine is the cropping of the game itself. Games do not take up the whole screen on my tablet, but they’re centered perfectly. On my S21 Ultra, games are not centered and do not take up the entire screen. I understand some games probably have to be cropped, but one can dream of full-screen Forza whenever and wherever I want.
Lastly, the other concern of mine is the game selection itself. Frankly, it could be better. Yes, it's better than Amazon Luna or Google Stadia, but I feel it could be better. It’s missing infamous COD titles, Assassin’s Creed games, and others like GTA (which was on Gamepass but was removed, why?).
What Gamepass Could Be
Although Gamepass is good, it will only get better with more players. With technology like Oculus or Zoom existing, it would be awesome to have an option to create parties where I can see the other people if they want. Specifically, it could be something as simple as seeing their faces (like Zoom), or seeing an avatar the other person has created, sort of like a walking Bitmoji.
Similarly, it would be cool to even begin Xbox Gamepass upon boot-up in a VR Hub, like what existed with Samsung Gear VR for a short time. Games like pool could be played in the interim, and when friends decide to, they could all jump into a gaming party together. This would far surpass anything currently existing. For certain groups like friends separated during college, VR Gamepass would be legitimately awesome. Realistically, Gamepass also doesn’t offer mac support as of writing. Connecting a Bluetooth controller to it and going to the Gamepass website is fruitless.
Should You Buy Gamepass & Conclusion
Assessing whether you should buy Gamepass should reflect on how you game. If sitting on your couch and playing a standard Xbox is worth your time, consider cheaper options. Perhaps you don’t buy into streaming and prefer physically owning the games. With10-minute wait times to queue into Gamepass lobbies, I get that. But if you want the ability to game wherever, or even game without owning a console, Gamepass might be for you. There is a certain level of simplicity and satisfaction when opening your phone and taking out a controller to jump right into a game. Nothing quite compares to Gamepass for college-aged students like myself or those who travel. With few competitors, and those competitors lacking, Gamepass might be the best option for you.